SECTION V. PREPARING TO LEARN
"Where can I go to get training and coursework?"
Once you have determined what you need to know, the skills you need to acquire, and the attitudes you need to cultivate, you can begin to look into your community to find assistance to reach your goal. There are two main categories of sources for your professional development: community-based training (information, non-credit training) and higher education (college coursework and programs for credit.)
"Where can I get non-credit training?"
You may have determined through your self-assessment that you need a specific knowledge area, skills and/or experience. In some cases, your community may have resources to help. The Training Resource Database contains a listing of a variety of training programs that are available across the state to meet a wide range of training needs. In addition, your local child care resource and referral program the Early Care and Learning Council should be knowledgeable about training opportunities. If there are charges for these trainings, the New York State Educational Incentive Program (EIP) may be a source of financial assistance. See Section C, Financing Education for a description of this program. Here are some general categories of community-based training sources you may find helpful:
BOCES - Several BOCES sponsors high school programs such as those described above but also offer adult training in career areas such as early childhood. These programs are an option for preparing for an entry-level position in child care. For more information, go to Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES.
Community Education - non-credit bearing - There are many other community agencies and organizations, including colleges, that offer non-credit training for early childhood preparation and continuing education. Some of this training is specific such as first aid and CPR, child identification and reporting, or workshops on a certain topic such as family literacy or how to infuse music into an early childhood curriculum. See Early Childhood Training Resources for a listing of training opportunities.
Early Care and Learning Council - The Early Care and Learning Council receives state funding for providing mandatory and continuing training for child care workers in both family child care and center-based settings. These programs are often sites for and/or provide support for the NYS Office of Children and Family Services video-based training, which is offered regularly on a wide variety of topics. See Early Care and Learning Council
Certificates and Credentials
College Degree Programs
Credit for Prior Learning
Transferring Credit or Experience
Transferring Credit from Two- or Four-Year Colleges
"What about college?"
Many careers focusing on working with children require college-level preparation. There are various levels of college work that change with increasing complexity. This section describes several programs offered by colleges and professional organizations that involve college-level preparation for various early childhood and school-age child care career opportunities. Each of these programs have tuition ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. For more information on a wide range of financial aid programs see Section C. Financing Preparation and Continuing Education.
Also, see the chart entitled, Comparisons for Early Childhood and Teacher Certification Preparation Models.
Certificates and Credentials - Certificates and credentials are two forms of educational programs that are offered to students as part of their work toward a college degree or often prior to or after they have received a degree. Certificate programs are offered by colleges, while credential programs may be offered by colleges or professional organizations.
Certificates - are sequences of college courses that can range from 6 to 30 credits. Successful completion of a certificate program indicates that the student has mastered a specific body of knowledge and has attained a competency level in applying that knowledge. Many community colleges in New York State offer 30 credit (1 year of full-time coursework) certificates in early childhood. These programs often serve as stepping stones to associate degrees. See the College and University Guide.
Credentials - are issued in recognition of certifiable knowledge and experience. Typically these programs require a portfolio or some other form of documentation that certifies the student has mastered a set of competencies required by the organization issuing the credential. Many credentials are obtained after completing credit-bearing course work.
Some of the more widely available certificates and credential programs include:
Child Development Associate (CDA) - This is a renewable credential awarded by the Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition. It requires the candidate to complete 120 hours of training in specific subject areas (this may or may not be credit-bearing), 480 hours of experience with an adviser observation, family questionnaires submitted from the group of children with whom the candidate works, and a professional portfolio containing specific items to demonstrate the candidate's competency. A council representative evaluates the candidate's portfolio during an on-site assessment which includes an interview and the candidate completing a multiple-choice studies review. For more information, go to Council for Professional Recognition and the chart entitled, Comparisons of Early Childhood and Teacher Certification Preparation Model.
Children's Program Administrator Credential - This is a credential awarded by the New York State Association for the Education of Young Children. It requires the applicant to hold at least an associate's degree (or sixty credits) in early childhood or a related field, complete 18 credits of specific coursework, and prepare a professional portfolio demonstrating competency in five content areas. The portfolio is reviewed and assessed by a team of reviewers who determine the applicant's competency based on the statements and projects the applicant submits.
For more information, see Children's Program Administrator Credential
Infant/Toddler Care and Education Credential - This is a credential awarded by the New York State Association for the Education of Young Children. There are no prerequisites for college study. However, to obtain a credential, an applicant is required to complete 12 credits of college study that directly relate to the Infant/Toddler competency areas. The applicant is also required to have work experience with infants or toddlers or a supervised practicum in this specific area of concentration. Applicants must also prepare a professional portfolio with specific items to demonstrate the candidate's competency. The portfolio is reviewed and assessed by a team of reviewers who determine the applicant's competency.
For more information, see Infant/Toddler Care and Education Credential
School-age Child Care Credential - This is a credential awarded by Cornell University that is designed to provide people working in school-age programs with the knowledge and skills that they need to provide quality services. There are no requirements for previous college study. It requires the applicant to demonstrate competency in seven goal areas and be observed and interviewed by a local assessment team consisting of an adviser, parent/community representative, and an endorser.
For more information, see School-Age Care Credential
Family Development Credential - This credential was developed under the partnership the New York State Council on Children and Families, Department of State, Division of Community Services, and Cornell University. The credential provides people working in early childhood, home visiting, health, social service, and other community-based programs with the skills and competencies that they need to support individuals and families to attain healthy self-reliance and interdependence with their communities. Applicants participate in 110 hours of interactive training, develop a portfolio demonstrating their competency, and must pass a standardized exam to receive the credential, which is awarded by Cornell University. Candidates are eligible for college credit from a number of colleges and universities.
Early Childhood Certificate - Several community colleges in New York State offer certificate programs in early childhood. These programs vary from college to college, but typically require the completion of a 30-college credit sequence of courses in early childhood education. There are no requirements for previous college study and often students use the certificate programs as a stepping-stone to college degree programs. For more information on early childhood certificates, go to College and University Database
Associate Degree - An associate degree is approximately 60 credits (two years of continuous full-time college study) but may be obtained on a part-time basis, which will take longer than two years. Colleges may require an entrance examination or placement tests to assess written language and math abilities. Associate degrees related to preparation for careers with children vary in the content and proportion of general education courses (such as composition, history, math, science, the arts) to professional courses such as child development.
Also, see the chart entitled, Comparisons of Early Childhood and Teacher Certification Preparation Models chart
For more information on associate's degrees in topics related to early childhood and school-age programs, go to the College and University Database.
Baccalaureate Degree - A bachelor's degree is approximately 120 credits (four years of continuous college study) but may be obtained on a part-time basis, which will take longer than four years to complete. Bachelor degree programs require general education courses (e.g., math, science, social studies) as well as approximately two years devoted to the study of early childhood curriculum and pedagogy and field experience. Associate degrees also may transfer into bachelor degrees to fulfill approximately two of the four year degree. The receiving college determines which courses will transfer based on how those courses equate to the required courses for the bachelor degree. The GPA (grade point average of all college course work) is also a determining factor in transfer ability of coursework from one college to another.
Bachelor degrees prepare people to work with children in a leadership role, some specifically lead to teacher certification. Bachelor degrees vary from one college to another, as well as one program to another. They vary in their content and their proportion of general education courses (such as composition, history, math, science, and the arts) to professional courses such as child development, curriculum and pedagogy and field experience or student teaching.
Also, see the chart entitled, Comparisons of Early Childhood and Teacher Certification Preparation Models chart.
The baccalaureate degree is required as a prerequisite for advanced degrees at the masters and doctoral levels. Individual colleges set the requirement for field of study and GPA (grade point average) and may require an entrance examination. For more information on bachelor's degrees in topics related to early childhood and school-age programs, go to the College and University Database.
Advanced Degrees - Advanced programs in preparing to work with children extend prior knowledge and experiences. New York State Teacher Certification (after 2004) requires a master's degree for the Professional Certificate. Doctoral degrees (Ph.D. - Doctor of Philosophy, and EdD - Doctor of Education) build upon master's degrees interpreting and expanding knowledge base through applied research and study. For more information on master's and doctoral degrees in topics related to early childhood and school-age programs, go to the College and University Database.
"But I already know so much through my years of experience and
attending many workshops. Doesn't that count?"
People learn a lot from their own experiences, watching experienced teachers, and by attending training. It is more difficult to assess and attach college credit to informal learning experiences, but there are mechanisms to do so. Some colleges have a system whereby you may request credit for a course without taking it because you have already attained the knowledge and met the outcome expectations of that course through your life experiences. The college may require you to take a comprehensive examination or produce a portfolio that documents your learning. It is the student's responsibility to prove the college level learning has taken place. Empire State College which is a part of the State University of New York, has a well-developed system for assessing the prior learning of their students. You can gain more information by visiting their website. To get information about receiving credit for prior learning of other colleges, contact their admissions department at Empire State College. To obtain information on how to contact the admissions offices of colleges in New York State, see College and University Database
"There isn't a college nearby."
"With my work hours I cannot meet the college class schedule."
Distance learning is an option for many people who cannot attend traditional college classes on a campus. Many colleges offer both general education and early childhood courses through this delivery system. In some cases, classes conducted by a professor with some students in the classroom are telecast to other locations where other students view and participate via closed circuit television. Increasing numbers of colleges are offering on-line courses, which are delivered through the internet with the students and professor never meeting face to face. Some on-line courses do require a few face-to-face meetings, proctored examinations, or supervised field components. With distance learning, you may not need to live near the college from which you take courses and you may have classmates from around the state or around the world. The courses, learning expectations, credits, and costs are usually the same as taking courses in a traditional classroom setting. The only aspect that is different is how you interact with the professor and classmates.
New York State has a well-developed network of on-line classes offered through the SUNY Learning Network at The State University of New York. Many additional colleges offer online courses, for information how to contact colleges in New York State, go to the College and University Database.
"I have college credits from the past. Will they count towards another degree?"
Only the receiving college can make the determination whether prior college credits transfer to their institution. The decision depends on the college from which they were obtained, your grades, the amount of time that has lapsed, and new developments in your field of study since you completed coursework, as well as new information discovered or theories applied since you took them. You should call the admissions office where you wish to study to speak to an admissions or a transfer counselor. For information on how to contact the admissions offices of colleges in New York State, go to the College and University Database.
"If I get my associates degree from one college and intend to transfer to pursue my bachelor degree, how do I find out if all my courses will transfer?
It is the receiving college that makes that determination but you should speak with the admissions office of both institutions as soon as you know you will want to transfer about articulation agreements and jointly registered programs.
"What are articulation agreements between colleges?"
Articulation agreements detail , which courses the receiving college will accept from the initial college. These are usually good assurances that your courses will transfer as long as you take those stipulated in this agreement and earn required grades. Be aware however, that sometimes college requirements change and then the articulation agreement may no longer be binding. It is a good idea to have your career counselor detail in writing, which courses are equal to the receiving college's courses and are transferable according to the articulation agreement.
"Do you have a joint registration or 2 + 2 agreement with X College?"
This is very similar to the articulation agreement but more binding since these agreements are registered with the New York State Education Department and you have a guarantee that if you meet the requirements set forth in the agreement then you will be accepted and all credits will transfer to the receiving college.
"How do I get started toward a college degree?"
Contact the admissions office of colleges, which have programs that seem to meet your educational need and that you are able to attend. They will guide you through a multi-step process of applying and enrolling into this program. You will be required to send in your high school transcripts (proof of your high school graduation) or proof of GED, and any prior college transcripts. These are sent school to school without coming to you directly. There may be residency forms, proof of immunization, entrance or placement tests, and fees. For more information, go to the College and University Database and Section C. Financing Preparation and Continuing Education.
"But can't I just take the courses I want and not get a degree?"
Non-matriculation means you have not formally applied to the college and are not going through the steps to work towards a degree as outlined above. You are able to register for the class you want, pay for it, and attend and receive the credit. Be aware however that if you are non-matriculated you may not receive regular financial aid (although you may still be eligible for NYS Educational Incentive Program). At a later date, should you decide to matriculate and apply to a college to work toward a degree, these courses may or may not count towards your degree even if you apply to matriculate at the same college where you took the courses as a non-matriculated student.
"Can I take one course and see how I do?"
Yes, that is a good way to start. Many people have found that it is not as difficult as they thought and before they know it they are walking across the stage with their tassel swinging, the audience applauding, and receiving their degree. One way to begin is to enroll in a certificate or credential programs that is offered by a college (e.g., CDA). This is a way many students have sampled the college experience to see if it is right for them. It is also recommended to seek the consultation and support of a college advisor
Types of Assistance
National and State Scholarships and Grant Programs
Local Sources of Financial Assistance
Where do I begin to obtain financial aid?
When do I apply?
How is financial need determined?
What are the rules regarding loan repayment?
"How can I finance my professional development?"
The decision to pursue your professional goals often requires you to enroll in college for continuing education. A major factor in this decision-making process is the cost of education and how you will pay for it. This section of the manual will help you understand the types of financial aid that are available and ways to access those funds.
Financial aid, provided by the federal and state governments, colleges, private organizations, and businesses, can help you pay for your studies at an approved college or vocational school. Financial aid is meant to supplement you and your family's ability to pay for college costs including tuition/fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, and other educational expenses. There are four basic types of financial aid which include:
Grants - These awards are a method of providing direct financial support to a student with financial need (or other factors) through public and private resources. An example of a grant source is the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which provides awards from $275 to $5,000 per year to eligible students who must be residents of New York State. The advantage of grants is that recipients do not have to pay the money back.
Scholarships - These awards are just like grants, except students receive the money for academic ability or special talents. Because grants and scholarships reduce the overall expense that a student has to undertake they should be applied for prior to taking out a loan.
Loans - Banks and other institutions help students finance college by providing loans that students will eventually have to pay back with interest. There are several low-interest loan programs available usually only to full-time students.
Work-Study - Most colleges offer work-study programs that provide students with a part-time campus job to help pay costs.
Although each of these financial resources are accessed separately, many students use a mixture of these resources to better meet their financial needs.
"How do I know if I qualify for any financial aid?"
First, consider how the cost of education will fit into your budget with your other expenses, such as rent, house payment, car payment, child care, etc. Remember there are many ways to help pay for your education.
The first step is for you to assess available sources of funding. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you or your family have sufficient savings to pay for the costs of education?
- Do you or your family have sufficient extra income to pay for educational costs?
- Do you need full or partial assistance to pay for college?
- If you are eligible for scholarships and grants, what portion of the educational costs will remain?
Every college or university has a financial aid or financial assistance office. Ask that a financial assistance packet be mailed to you. The financial aid office and your major department office or department of the college that houses your major course of study will know about the availability of many grants or scholarships.
Financial aid information that is available through the college includes campus-based aid that is derived from the college's endowment or other sources and federal and state financial aid programs. These include federal programs that are administered directly by the financial aid office at participating schools including: the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program which awards grants, the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program which offers jobs, and the Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins) Program which offers low-interest loans. Not all schools are involved with all programs. Each participating school receives a limited amount of funds for the programs, so it is important to apply early.
There are several national and state grant programs that are widely available. These include:
Federal Pell Grant - Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or professional degree. For many students, Pell Grants provide a foundation of financial aid to which other aid may be added.
New York State Tuition Assistance Program - The Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) provides grants to eligible students to help pay for tuition. To qualify, students must be New York State residents and attending eligible in-state, post-secondary schools on a full-time basis. For New York State residents, TAP is another part of the foundation of financial aid to which other aid may be added. Awards are determined by:
- academic year in which first payment of TAP or any state award is received;
- type of postsecondary institution and the tuition charged;
- combined family New York Net Taxable Income;
- financial status (dependent on, or independent of your parents); and
- other family members enrolled in college.
Stafford Loan - If you have financial need, your financial aid administrator will notify you of your subsidized Stafford Loan eligibility. For these loans, the government pays the interest on your loan while you are in college, and for six months after you leave. If you do not have some financial need, you may be able to receive an unsubsidized Stafford Loan. For these loans, you can pay the interest while you're in school or allow it to accumulate (that is, added to the principal amount of your loan).
New York State Educational Incentive Program - The Educational Incentive Program (EIP) provides scholarships to eligible individuals working in a child care program regulated by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services or the New York City Department of Health. Scholarships awards can be used for non-credit bearing coursework, credit-bearing coursework, for conference fees, and fees for certain early childhood credentials (CDA, the New York State Children's Program Administrator Credential, etc.). Individuals must fill out the appropriate application and submit documentation verifying employment and family income. Applications are available online at Professional Development Program Early Childhood Education and Training website.
Low-interest loans may be another way to finance your education. They are often available through the educational institution, from local banks, or other lending institutions. Your school's financial aid office should be able to help you begin your search.
Taxpayers with a joint adjusted gross income below $100,000 may qualify for Hope Scholarship and Lifetime Learning Tax Credit. The Hope Scholarship provides up to $1,500 tax credit. The Lifetime Learning program provides up to $1,000 tax credit. Claim these credits on your federal tax form using IRS form 8863.
Various local or state organizations offer scholarships for people interested in getting degrees in early education. Contact your local Association for the Education of Young Children and your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency for a list of local CCR&Rs) for leads on scholarships that might be available to you in your community. for a list of the CCR&Rs click here
- FindAid-The SmartStudent Guide to Financial
- Federal Student Aid
- College Board
- US Department of Education
- College Foundation of North Carolina
- New York State Financial Aid Administrators Association
"Where do I begin to obtain financial aid?"
The first step is to contact the financial aid office of the college you wish to attend. A significant source for financial aid is grants and scholarships. To investigate the possibilities of obtaining a grant or scholarship, you should start by gathering the required information that is used to determine your eligibility and need. Make sure to factor in time for research and application deadlines. The following describes the major steps in applying for financial assistance:
Step 1: Gather the following information:
- Proof of U. S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Valid social security number
- High school diploma or General Education Development (GED) Certificate
- Proof of registration with the Selective Service, if required
- Proof of residency
- Latest federal income tax forms (yours, your parents, and/or spouse)
- Latest W-2 forms, or end-of-year pay stubs
- Records of latest untaxed income (child support, public assistance, Social Security, and Veteran's Administration benefits)
- Bank account balances, lists of stocks, bonds, and other assets
- Mortgage balance of any other real estate (not including your home)
Step 2: Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- Are you working toward a degree?
- What is your financial status? Are you independent or a dependent of your parents?
- If you are a dependent, are there other family members enrolled in college?
Step 3: Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
The FAFSA is a common application for federal loan and grant programs that is used by colleges for their financial assistance program. Completing the FASA will determine your eligibility for the following Federal Student Financial Aid Programs:
- Federal Pell Grants
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
- Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans
- Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans
- Federal Perkins Loans
- Federal Work-Study (FWS)
- Title VII and Public Health Act Programs
You can file FAFSA online at https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa (opens in a new window). Paper copies of the FAFSA are available in high school guidance offices, the local library, or the college's financial aid office. If you completed a FAFSA in a previous year, you will automatically receive the next year's renewal form. A new form has to be filled out each year. If applying for financial aid in September, financial information from your W-2 form from the previous tax year is applicable.
Step 4: Complete and submit a Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) Application
If you are a New York State resident and include a New York college on your FAFSA, the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) will mail you an ETA Express TAP Application. Information from your FAFSA along with your family's calculated New York State income will be preprinted on your ETA. Review this information, change any incorrect items, complete any missing items, then sign and mail the form to HESC using the return envelope. If you received TAP in the previous year, and your information remains the same, you may not need to file the ETA (Expressed TAP Application) to receive an award. Note: You can only get TAP if you go to a college in New York State.
Step 5: Contact the financial aid office at your college
Besides the FAFSA, the college of your choice may have its own financial aid application. It is important to keep copies of everything filed, and make all filing deadlines.
At each college that accepts you, the financial aid administrator verifies your FAFSA, calculates your eligibility for financial aid, and sends you an award letter. The letter tells you how much aid you can receive and the programs (grants, scholarships, loans, and/or work study), which will make up your "Financial Aid Package." If more than one college has accepted you, compare the aid packages. That comparison can play a role in your college decision.
"When do I apply?"
Each program has its own schedule. In general, you should plan to fill out your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible. If your family has completed their income tax forms, it will be easier to complete the FAFSA, but you can apply using estimated information. Check your prospective colleges' web sites for deadlines, and be sure to file the FAFSA in time to meet the earliest deadline. Remember that you have to apply for financial aid every year.
"How is financial need determined?"
The information supplied on a completed FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is used in a formula, established by the U. S. Congress, that calculates your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is the amount you and your family are expected to contribute toward your education. If your EFC is below a certain amount, you may qualify for a Federal Pell Grant. Your financial aid administrator determines your cost of attendance (in most cases, tuition and fees, room and board, travel, books and supplies, and personal and miscellaneous expenses) and subtracts your EFC. The remaining balance is your financial need. That is: Cost of Attendance minus Expected Family Contribution equals Financial Need.
"What are the rules regarding loan repayment?"
You must repay your loans-even if you do not finish college or find a job in your chosen field. You are responsible for paying the amount you borrowed, along with the interest and loan fees. Repayment starts six months after you leave college or attend less than half-time. This six-month period is called the grace period.
If you have trouble with repayment when the time comes, there is help available-along with a number of repayment options. Talk to your lender or the Higher Education Services Corporation as soon as you think there is a problem. You can get your loan account information at http://www.hesc.com/ (opens in a new window) and you can use that web site to contact the Loan Advocate Unit or call 1-888-215-0196.